Six Wisconsin Emergency Medicine physicians traveled to Washington, DC this July to meeting with the offices of your legislators. This team met with the staff for Senators Baldwin’s and Johnson’s office and then representatives Pocan and Gallagher and the staff from Representative Fitzgerald’s and Moore’s office. While initially the plan was to once again have in person meetings for the first time since the pandemic began, the delta variant interfered with these plans and legislative meetings ended up happening from hotel rooms---though we had many additional talks and networking opportunities making it an all-around great experience!
This year we had three items to discuss:
- Avoid the Impending Medicare Payment Cliff – You may recall last year we had a outreach campaign as there was an impending Medicare rate cut. While we avoided this, it was really just kicked down the line for another year. For those who remember SGR we are sort of finding ourselves in the same situation again. This year due to the sequestration cut (2% annually) a “PAYGO” cut which is an additional 4% and then a budget neutrality cut for Emergency physicians we are looking at a potential 10% cut should Congress not do something. Thankfully most everyone is supportive avoiding any cut, the exact mechanics of how this will be avoided are what is under discussion… it’s still infrastructure week but with an impending cliff we anticipate by the end of the year there will likely need to be additional grassroot efforts on this matter. Of note, physicians for decades have been advocating to avoid rate cuts due to Congress’s anti-inflationary policies. We have not kept up with consumer prices and that of many other health care sectors rates.
- Improving access to Addiction Treatment (HR 1384/S 445) – Essentially here we are seeking congressional action to remove the X-waiver to prescribe medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. There are over 84 co-sponsors for this legislation with Representative Glenn Grothman form WI signing on as co-sponsor prior to our meeting. While many of those that we met with were favorable to legislation like this, we will be seeking and asking for additional co-sponsors as we follow up with staff.
- Caring for Our Frontline Health Care Professionals (the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, HR 1667/S610). This act is named after an Emergency physician who died by suicide early in the COVID pandemic after caring for patients in New York after their peak census in the city. We all probably know someone who has been impacted by mental health in the workplace or are aware of the stigma that mental health has on physician and other health care professional’s wiliness to seek help when needed. This act seeks to provide grants and training to promote evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent burnout, suicide, and substance use, improve support programs for health care professionals suffering from mental and behavioral health challenges, and commission a federal study into reasons health care workers do not seek appropriate care and other factors leading to burnout and how to address them. Senator Baldwin was an original sponsor of this act. Mark Pocan is a co-sponsor of the house bill where it has over 100 bipartisan co-sponsors at this point.
So, in short, we did some great work in DC this year and it was great to be back. We value building these relationships and having conversations with our representatives and their staff. We would love to have you join ACEP's LAC next year in DC. Save the date for May 1-4, 2022 and feel free to email the WACEP Office or Dr. Brad Burmeister so we can keep you updated moving forward!